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American Express blends mobile commerce into Twitter program

The program is being rolled out across Twitter’s Web and mobile platforms and lets consumers shop directly from hashtags associated with specific products from retailers. Given mobile’s ongoing role in Twitter’s monetization strategy, the move likely has big implications for how marketers tie their mobile and social campaigns together.

“Twitter has been leveraging mobile messaging behavior consumers developed on their phone for more than a decade,” said Cezar Kolodziej, president/CEO of Iris Mobile, Chicago.

“There is no marketing channel that is better than messaging for user response rate, redemption rates and long term consumer engagement,” he said. “All of this might really help generate good results for American Express.”

Mr. Kolodziej is not affiliated with American Express. He commented based on his expertise on the subject.

American Express did not meet press deadline.

Tweeted sales
The initiative builds on American Express and Twitter’s Sync program, which lets consumers connect their accounts to foursquare, Twitter and Facebook to receive deals from merchants.

To participate in the program, users can link their accounts to Twitter at

Beginning today, consumers can buy a limited number of products from brands such as Amazon, Sony and Microsoft’s Xbox 360. To buy a product, consumers send a tweet that is associated with a specific hashtag.

Once a tweet is sent, users are sent a reply message from American Express’ automated Twitter handle for the campaign – @AmexSync.

Consumers then have 15 minutes to retweet the message. When a tweet is retweeted, the product is automatically charged to the user’s account and mailed to their billing address in two days with free shipping.

The products will be available on Twitter through March 3 or until they are sold out.

As an incentive to get consumers involved, American Express offered a discount on a select number of branded gift cards to consumers. Card members could tweet #BuyAmexGiftCard25 to buy a $25 gift card for $15.

At the time of press, the American Express gift cards were sold out.

Revenue driver
The American Express initiative underscores Twitter’s need to monetize traffic, especially on mobile.

Up until now, the social media site has primarily relied on mobile advertising models that pack an ad into a tweet into users’ feeds. The ads appear in a social feed as a regular tweet but alert users that they are promoted.

On American Express’ side, the credit card has been actively pushing mobile commerce to consumers via targeted offers for a while.

Most recently, American Express teamed up with Fox and NBC on two different initiatives to let consumers buy products featured the networks’ TV shows (see story).

Additionally, the company ramped up its loyalty program over the holidays by rolling out mobile gift cards to retailers including Old Navy, Pottery Barn and Banana Republic (see story).

As social media usage continues to grow, the American Express deal might aid in making consumers more comfortable shopping from both social sites and mobile devices.

However, it is key for marketers to keep the offer relevant for consumers.

“Recent history has shown that people are willing to be reassured on security issues in exchange for true convenience,” said Brennan Hayden, executive vice president and chief operating officer at WDA, East Lansing, MI.

“Twitter has the largest opt-in database of mobile devices on the planet, so this feature presents a huge opportunity for Twitter,” he said.

“I believe they could rival PayPal in transaction volume in a short period of time. What that means for Twitter’s business will take time to play out, and obviously with a powerful partner like American Express in the mix the structure of that deal will be critical for Twitter’s bottom-line even if the service is a home-run. And if execution is crisp, this service will be a home-run.”

Final Take
Lauren Johnson is associate reporter on Mobile Commerce Daily, New York